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1950s Archive

Food Flashes

Originally Published August 1951

Hearing the cheering from the birthday party across the Atlantic, we decided to go. France holds celebration for beloved Paris, two thousand years old, Europe's oldest capital after Athens and Rome. Too much fun to be missing.

Paris is fun-crazy, holding fairs and fireworks; fountains play evenings with lighting effects, famous buildings are Spotlighted to show off the architectural details. But we went to visit the restaurants, to look in on the markets, to shelf-browse among groceries.

The French claim to be experts in three things: love, food, and wine. In the food and wine category we can swear now by their talents. This eating pilgrimage started on the evening of June first when we boarded Air France's super de luxe, nonstop New York to Paris plane, the Parisian. The take-off nine o'clock, the sky still washed in the lingering pinks of sunset. Our flying altitude of 18, 000 feet attained, dinner was served, it was ten o'clock, but not loo late for dining in the French manner.

Dining on Air France is a capital D occasion and has been since the inaugural flight, which we were fortunate enough to make in late June, 1946. Those French are a canny lot; they know where they shine! They have made their air cuisine representative of the best one can find in the gastronomical temples of Old Lady Paris herself. So it was we went French at the table before we touched France.

Welcome the steward with a tray load of bottles offering apéritifs. French passengers favored vermouth, the sweet, served very well chilled with a twist of lemon's bright peel. Two sips and old earth and old problems slip into obscurity; we are flying the ocean on a light cloud of French hospitality. The first course, hors-d'oeuvre, included the Romanoff caviar de beluga on Melba toast, foie gras prepared in putt pastry by Edouard Artzner. There was heart of artichoke with a tomato quarter neatly poised as for take-off.

Even aboard the plane the French consider nothing more important than the arrival of the entree. Here, as at the theater, a second's delay comprises the success of the whole entertainment. The main dish, poularde bimillénaire de Paris, was hurried down the aisle, each guest served quickly from a sizzling casserole. This was chicken in a rich dark sauce made with the nippings of truffle. Surely, the French know about the human treatment of the bird. There was a helping of rice, those little French peas, miniature carrots, a European variety, and green beans slender as grass blades. The green salad, then, with a French dressing and cheese, a choice of three kinds. White or red wines to choose, wines of good years.

Champagne came with the dessert, the fresh fruits of the season: plums, peaches, cherries. For the sweet bite, crêpes dentilles de Bretagne, thin leaves of pastry rolled like the French pancake and baked to the crispness and color of a dried oak leaf in autumn. The flavor is of caramelized sugar blended with butter; one swift bite and a million flakes on the tongue! Coffee, piping hot; have it black with cognac.

The first evening in the birthday city, a home dinner with the Renaud Dolfis in avenue Victor-Hugo. A simple dinner beginning with an egg soup, followed by a cold roasted chicken, French fried potatoes fresh from the fat pot, and a green salad with a French dressing made into walnut oil, tossed and retossed until every leaf glistened. Dessert was the little French strawberry with Normandy cream so thick it had to be coaxed to drop from the spoon.

The French walnut oil is selling now in New York City, a golden-hued oil coming from Bourgueil in the valley of the Loire near Tours. This oil is a luxury even in France, where it is much liked combined with a wine and vinegar base in a dressing for field salad. The oil has more aroma than the oil of olive. Is more nutty in flavor. Pricc $4.50 a quart, sold in New York City by Charles and Company, 340 Madison Avenue; Vendomc Table Delicacies, 415 Madison Avenue; Hammacher Schlemmer, 145 hast Fifty-seventh Street; and Maison Glass, 15 East Forty-seventh Street.

Coffee in the living room with a choice of two brandies made by the Dolfi Brothers and a Framberry liqueur, this last available here in the States. A dry white brandy penetrated by the flavor of raspberry, delicate and yet potent, the Dolfi Framboise d'Alsace is imported by Bellows, 67 East Fifty-second Street, New York City; the price, $12.42 for 25.6 ounces.

Our first Sunday in France, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Vaudable, owners of the famous Maxim's, invited us for lunch at the Auberge de la Moutiere in Montfort l'Amaury, thirty miles out of Paris. There isn't space here to tell about this unique restaurant; once a country bistro, now a smart dining place where the Parisians like gathering on week ends, whether winter or summer. Lunchcon was served under a pear tree in the luxuriant garden enclosed at the rear.

A cheese omelette for the first course; broiled lamb chop, plain with crisp water cress. A ton of calories in the dessert Louis Vaudable urged us to try. This is a creation he introduced at Maxim's and gave permission for its use to his friend, Maurice Carrére, owner of this country inn. A fresh cream cheese, coeur à la crème, is formed in individual heart shapes, one to a portion. Over this a dip of the thick Normandy cream; and now for the novelty: A little bowl of finely ground dark roast coffee is passed to sprinkle spoonful by spoonful over the cream; then granulated sugar to taste.

Most exciting moment at the fabulous Maxim's was watching a waiter get the peel from a peach, With the back side of a silver knife the fruit was defuzzed, then peeled so thin the blush of the check tinted the flesh. The peach was served whole on a grape leaf, finely granulated sugar passed for a brief sprinkle. Here the field strawberries were poured directly from leaf-lined basket to plate. Then came that thick Normandy cream, take little or much. Very alluring the little berries when sprinkled with champagne, then a dusting of sugar.

Wild strawberries are being flown to New York, selling forty-eight hours after picking at Bloomingdale's and the R. H. Macy groceries. The 8 ½-ounce bacskets sell for about 85 cents.

Petits fours of fruits and nuts bedded On fondant or resting on marzipan, then glacéed, are made in the Maxim kitchen. No better are made in all of Paris. Exact duplicates arc offered by Henri's, 15 East Fifty-second Street, New York City, selling at $3 a pound, but only during the cool months.

One of the oldest and finest delicacy stores in all of Paris is the Ancienne Maison Corcellet, 18, avenue de l'Opéra. Here on marble counters and shelves are the food treasures of France. Eyes skim groceries; we make hasty jottings: canned snails, Capitain Cook filet of herring in while wine sauce, quenelles of many kinds, of pike, crawfish, veal, and chicken; cassoulets from the various provinces. Let the pencil fiy: breast of goosc in jelly with truffles, pâté of thrush, veal and pork in jelly, canned mushrooms, cépes, eels, pâté de foie gras. Entire tables are given over to the fine mustards, the fancy French vinegars, honey cakes, and wine biscuits. Chocolate is here from every important chocolate-making city of Europe; Bar-le-Duc jellies, both the red and white. It was only with difficulty that we kept our hend and escaped without an armload of exotic groceries to carry home. And no point to this, for everything there sells here in New York.

Gazing at the preserved fruit, we had a strong conviction that in the States we do a superior packing job by the orchard wares. Look at the Raffetto line, for example. Can you imagine fruits anywhere more beautiful in jar or on plate? And the taste is perfection!

Gourmets on a visit to Paris must, without fail, visit the cheese store Brussol-Creplet, 17, place de la Madeleine. Never again will you see so many French cheeses or such unusual ones collected in one tiny shop. Five o'clock daily, a line at the door waiting to buy. Cheeses crowd the long marble counter that runs the length of the store. A symphony of smells is played for the nose. You must see this shop for yourself, smell it for yourself, be confounded by the mingling of the peculiar perfumes that cither asphyxiate or enliven. And that reminds us of Saint-Aubin pure white goat cheese handled by Bellows Gourmets' Bazaar, 67 Hast 52nd Street, New York. A Frenchman, a landscape architect in France before he bought a farm in the U.S.A., is responsible for this snow-white cheese that resembles the Saint-Marcelin from its native Jura. It is made from the milk of a certified herd of Swiss goats that look as impeccable as while violets. Try it with black Greek or Italian olives and dry Martinis. It is mild, crumbly, with just enough bite to be ideal summer eating.

Cuff note, H. J. Heinz gets around. The foods of this line arc met in virtually every Paris food store handling imports. The pickles, the sauces, the soups, usually rate front-window position.

In every bakeshop window of Paris, French pastries held forth; tray load on tray load of mouth-watering little sweets In every imaginable and unimaginable shape. Each time we tasted, we said to ourselves, “Mrs. Klein can do belter.” We were thinking of Mrs. Kornreich Klein in the States, there in Milwaukee. At Christmas time a line waits down the block at the Klein bakery door to buy the holiday cookies. People in Wisconsin drive miles to get a box of these butler-rich wafers to use for holiday gifts and to pass with the punch.

Now these fragile sweets go traveling by mail. A unique package has been developed to carry the cookies without breakage. To solve the travel problem, each piece is individually sealed in a double ribbon of Cellophane. The ribbon strips are rested On their sides in a heavy cardboard box with .separators for arrival without casualties—135 cookies of maybe 25 shapes. Another advantage of the packaging is that these individually enveloped cookies keep fresh in their wrapper until ready to use.

Cookies from the hands of experienced bakers, made with the finest of ingredients; we mean things like 93-score butler, grade A large eggs, pure fruit preserves, everything quality. Good eating, good looking on the plate, these are sweets to remember for teas and re ceptions, a nice gift for a shut-in or convalescent or for the children at camp. At your next dinner party serve the Milwaukee cookies along with ice cream; they crumble butter-rich in the mouth. Send check or money order (no C.O.D.'s) to Mrs. Kornreich Klein, 2853 North Third Street. Milwaukee, Wisconsin; the price, $4.95 for eleven dozen cookies.

Its name is Coconut Snow. It spoons from the tin, a powdery white stuff—coconut finely ground, blended with whole milk solids, with cane sugar, with dextrose. You add it, to taste, wherever coconut's true flavor is wanted. Experiment: Use it in cream pies, in puddings. In coconut, the orange recognizes a faithful affinity; when the two come together, they yield a new flavor. Cut the orange in thin slices crosswise, lay them in a bowl with a very little sugar and a generous sprinkling of Coconut Snow.

At the Brown Derby of Los Angeles the powder is used for a drink, menu labeled the Snow Ball. To make this, put 1 generous tablespoon Coconut Snow, 1 tablespoon crushed pineapple, and 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream in a shaker or electric mixer. Add 1 cup chilled milk and shake or mix vigorously for 3 to 5 minutes. A most satisfactory drink, smooth, rich, frothy.

Coconut Snow has been selling in Los Angeles for some time. It is used often with rum; the flavors of the two forming an exaltant and unexpected union. But experiment: add the powdery sweetness wherever the call for the delicate, ripe flavor of fresh coconut. A 10-ounce tin, $1 postpaid. Maison Rochez, P.O. Box 5, Beverly Hills, California.

Stop in Williamsburg, Virginia. Visit the log cabin kitchen which sells a line of delicacies made from a collection of eighteenth-century recipes produced with all the authenticity of the Williamsburg Restoration.

Mistress of this unique kitchen is Clyde Cole Bullock, possessor of the Cole family collection of recipes, said to be the largest private recipe collection of any one period. Mrs. Bullock has had her collection checked by Harvard University, the College of Williamsburg, and the Restoration library. Her products are typical of country cupboard put-ups which the women of that Southern community have always made. Mrs. Bullock buys the fruits from the Lynchburg area and hires a local pickle expert to process under her direction.

The sweetmeats she prepares herself in her little kitchen, there in the shadow of the old capitol. A kitchen of eighteenth-century design but with a modern stove, if you please! The sweetmeats are nuts cooked in spiced wine, prepared. in olden days for the gentlemen only, to be served with their fine liqueurs, wines, and cordials. It is thought that Lord Boletourt referred to these very sweetmeats in his inventory dated October 24, 1770, when he listed two gallipots of Virginia sweetmeats. Clyde Cole jelly specialties are fresh mint, wild elderberry, and pale pink crab apple. There are numerous rind pickles; crisp and delicious the English chop pickle, like a chowchow, made with watermelon rind, cucumber, peppers, onions, and spices.

These various products are making a name for themselves in department-store groceries. Selling at Davison-Paxon in Atlanta; at Miller and Rhodes in Richmond; The Anchor in Winston-Salem. In New York at R. H. Macy's. In Williamsburg the Clyde Cole goodies sell in hotels and gift shops, and the following items may be ordered direct by mail: 1-pound box of sweetmeats, $2.50; handmade carrying basket with two 7 ½-ounce jars of Old Williamsburg pickle, one 12-ounce jar Old Williamsburg crab-apple or wild elderberry jelly, postpaid $3.00. A gift box containing a ½-pound box of sweetmeats, one 12-ounce glass elderberry jelly, one 12-ounce glass fresh mint jelly, one 15-ounce jar watermelon rind pickle, one 15-ounce jar English chop pickle, a 15. ounce jar sweet cucumber slices, with peanuts and pecans fresh from the country nestling among the jars, is priced at $5. All prices include postage. Address Clyde Cole Kitchen, Box 341, Williamsburg, Virginia.

Riley Brothers of Halifax, England, a drear, gray city, sends rum and butter toffee that tastes like filtered sunshine. It comes in tin lithographed boxes, $1 for a pound; selling in New York, at Hammacher Schlemmer, 145 East Fifty-seventh Street.